WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- You could smell the food from a few blocks away, and that was the point. One Wilmington community used food and friends as a way to gain support against crime this weekend.
"This neighborhood used to have a really bad reputation," said resident Abigail Beck. "It turned around a couple of years ago, and now it is creeping back in. We don’t really want to have it."
Residents near South 7th and Queen Streets are taking a stand against violence before it spills into their neighborhood.
"A lot of us feel very safe, but we want to keep it that way," said neighborhood watch organizer Caren Gordon.
After a string of shootings in Wilmington and word of increased gang violence from the Wilmington Police Chief,
"We have recently arrested some high level gang members, gang leaders. We believe that has created a void in local gangs."
…the community wants to create an effective neighborhood watch. They organized a cookout on the corner of 7th and Queen Streets this weekend to gain support from other neighbors.
"If everybody knows who actually lives in this neighborhood, then we can look out for each other," said Beck.
Residents did point out that stopping violence isn’t the only focus.
"We also see prostitution," said Gordon. "Some neighbors have witnessed drug transactions."
They are relying on each other' eyes and ears to keep their neighborhood safe. Long-time resident Alice Miller says she may not be as young as she once was, but she still hears and sees pretty well.
"I have a very attentive mind, and I sit on my porch a lot," said Miller. "I see a lot."
Miller says the violence "is all around," and it is important to meet everyone and know who truly belongs in your neighborhood.
The neighborhood watch will hold monthly meetings. The next meeting is scheduled for October 16th at MLK center.